In a career that spanned almost half a century, Frank Whiteley trained numerous stakes winners and four champions. He is best known as the trainer of Hall of Fame member Ruffian, considered by many to be one of the greatest female Thoroughbreds of all time.
Born in Centerville, Md., on Jan. 31, 1915, Frank Yewell Whiteley, Jr., grew up on a farm and obtained his training license at the age of 21. He began on Maryland’s half-mile tracks, and in 1965 conditioned his first champion, Tom Rolfe, winner of the Preakness Stakes and American Derby, among others.
In 1967, Whiteley trained Damascus to victories in the Preakness, Belmont, and Woodward. Like Tom Rolfe, Damascus was named Champion 3-Year-Old Male. Damascus also locked up Horse of the Year with his score in the Woodward, a race in which he defeated Buckpasser and Dr. Fager by 10 lengths.
In 1974 and 1975, Whiteley raced the most famous horse of his career, Ruffian. Her undefeated 1974 season earned her Champion 2-Year-Old Filly honors. In 1975, she extended her undefeated record to 10, became the fourth horse to win the Filly Triple Crown (Mother Goose, Acorn, and Coaching Club American Oaks) and earned the title of Champion 3-Year-Old Filly.
Ruffian’s unprecedented success made racing fans clamor to see a match race between her and 1975 Kentucky Derby winner Foolish Pleasure. On July 6, 1975, the two met at Belmont Park. Ruffian had just taken the lead when she suffered a catastrophic breakdown. Despite surgery, her life could not be saved.
In 1976, Whiteley took over the training of 6-year-old Forego. Whiteley kept Forego at the top of his game and he was named Champion Handicap Male in both 1976 and 1977, and won his third Horse of the Year title in 1976.
Along with his two wins in the Preakness and his Belmont score, Whitely also won the American Derby (2), Arlington Classic, Aqueduct Handicap (3), Dwyer Stakes (2), Jockey Club Gold Cup, Travers Stakes, Wood Memorial, Woodward (3), Brooklyn Handicap (2), Carter Handicap (2), Acorn Stakes, Coaching Club American Oaks, Mother Goose, and metropolitan Handicap (2).
Whiteley retired in 1984. His son, David Whiteley, became a successful trainer with three champions of his own. In addition to his son, Frank Whiteley helped mold the careers of Shug McGaughey and Barclay Tagg.
Frank Whiteley, Jr., was inducted into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame in 1978. He died on May 2, 2008.
Whiteley escorts Damascus to morning workouts